SURVIVING SELF-ISOLATION: RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SAM KNOWLES & SAM WATERS | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Contemporary Young Artist Award winner – If The Shoe Fits, ceramic sculptures with textile underwear by Millie Suu-Kyi

April would have been a month packed with excellent gigs, theatre and comedy shows – many of which we’d have previewed and reviewed. We didn’t want to ignore the contribution these artists (and promoters) make to the region, so we asked some of them to give you a few tips on how you can spend your time in isolation.

Sam Knowles and Sam Waters are artists and co-curators of the Contemporary Young Artist Award, hosted by The Biscuit Factory. The exhibition can still be seen online and you can vote for your People’s Choice Winner. Here’s a few of their favourite things…

Sam Knowles

Box set: I had planned to watch Sex Education but I fell In love with Maeve, became addicted and binged the two series in a week.

Podcast: I’ve been enjoying the Adam Buxton podcasts. I’m a latecomer to him but find his warm and chatty persona very appealing.

Book: I’m halfway through reading Bill Bryson’s book The Body. Did you know your DNA stretched out in line would reach beyond Pluto? In contrast, I’m also reading Stalingrad by Anthony Beevor, where the isolation and misery encountered by both sides in that battle put my current comfortable isolation into perspective.

Music: Lianne la Havas, Snow Patrol’s Wildness and marmite act Hobo Johnson and the Lovemakers’ Typical Story.

Sam Waters


Ottessa Moshfegh – My Year of Rest and Relaxation: The story of one person’s hibernation from the world. Depressing, dystopian, dry and dark, but also strangely comforting and full of the joy of innocent fantasy of withdrawing from a hostile world. Some people found this bleak. I found it mostly liberating.

Sara Baume – A Line Made by Walking: Another story of self-isolation and quiet breakdown that is also full of the peculiar beauty of the impossible sadness of the world – a sadness which seems so sad it too ultimately in some ways resolves to hope.

Fernando Pessoa – Book of Disquiet: Pessoa is the quintessential poet of dark, droll and mordant self-reflection, and so this is an ideal companion for these strange self-isolated times. This is a novel, poem, memoir, and oddball episodic masterpiece thing, which is by turns revelatory, deliberately bathetic and hilariously solipsistic, shining a light on the human condition and our weird and conflicted ways.


Charles Eisenstein Podcast: These generally very short episodes distill a lot of Eisenstein’s big intertextual thinking into cogent and easily-digested chunks. He weaves together a worldview which is recognisable and rational, but spiritual, conscious, and economically radical enough that unregulated wildlife markets providing cross-species disease transmission probably would never even need to happen…


Max Richter – Sleep: Meditative, mournful, full of aching hope and longing, restful, restorative, and full of the bliss of the unconscious – which might be the ideal way to pass the next season or two on earth.

Lungbutter – Honey: Chosen not because of their suddenly gravely resonant band name, but because this was one of my favourite new discoveries last year and now serves as a reminder that there is still exciting, vital and compelling new music to be made in fairly traditional ways, and that the same hope can be applied to the world more generally.

Any 90s or noughties music: Or indeed any music at all from before 2020. When the world was simpler and it was a time of greater certainty from which even a silly old Balearic pop song now seems profoundly moving in its innocence, levity and conveyance of emotions that are just about manageable in their magnitude and intensity. Unlike, say, those induced by a deadly pandemic and worldwide existential hysteria/reckoning…

Pearl Jam – Dance of the Clairvoyants: Speaking of the 90s, Eddie Vedder has returned with a new record just when the world is contemplating the ideals he always represented – empathy and the wide-horizoned healing of the collective. Let’s make the best of this time, even if it’s not how we’d like, because it’s all we’ve got now.


Marc Maron – End Times Good (Netflix): A state of the nation-state-world set of stand-up. When he ironically says of taking our own shopping bags to the supermarket as a response to imminent total environmental catastrophe, that “We did all we could!”, I wonder if the same joke might in time to come be made about washing our hands and carrying on as normal in the face of a pandemic…

Wild Wild Country (Netflix): The story of a world gone wrong. Or several worlds gone wrong. The story of how every world goes wrong. But also strangely hopeful because of that. We can remake the world, but it might end up looking a lot like the old one. So perhaps it’s best just to remake this one, all of us as one.

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